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What is the value of apprentices in construction?

It’s been a concern for a while that the construction
industry doesn’t have enough skilled workers. City & Guilds found that 87%
of employers were already finding it difficult to recruit the necessary number
of skilled workers last year and, Construction News reported that official
figures show  12.6% of UK construction
workers come from overseas, with 5.7% originating from the EU. Staggeringly,
this rises to six in 10 in London, with 30% of British-born construction
workers currently over 50 years old. This means that businesses are likely to feel
the pinch of those departing in the coming years through retirement when Brexit
comes into play.

However, it’s believed by some experts that apprenticeships
are crucial. They could be more important than ever before following Brexit and
an influx of publicity which circulated around National Apprenticeship Week in
March seems to have encouraged employers to think about the future of their
workforces — could it be that apprentices will fill the employee shortage?

Niftylift, retailers of aerial work
platforms, takes a closer look…

The top five sectors for apprenticeship starts are
Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Planning and the Built Environment.
In the academic year of 2016/2017, the Engineering and Manufacturing sector
witnessed 74,000 starts, while the Construction sector had 21,000. Leading UK
housebuilder, Redrow, released its second annual research report which revealed
that, thanks to a positive shift in attitudes and the perception of
construction, the apprenticeship pathway has improved, with a 14% increase in
young people considering a career in the sector.

Discussing the report, Redrow’s Group HR Director, Karen
Jones, said: “This year’s results illustrate that apprenticeships and careers
in construction are being viewed in a more positive light.

“Apprenticeships are a way of futureproofing the UK
workforce, particularly in sectors where there is a skills shortage, such as
construction, so it is pleasing to see that progress is being made.”

Due to the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last
year, it’s expected that success for apprenticeships will continue as the levy
brings with it a new way of funding apprenticeship programmes. While some
employers have snubbed the new levy as just being ‘another tax’, both large and
small employers can benefit from the fund, meaning that 90% of apprenticeship
training costs are funded by the government. Furthermore, employers within the
construction sector can use up to 10% of the funding to train employees across
the full supply chain — something not to be snubbed with the current shortage
in skilled workers.

Apprenticeships are delivering the goods, according to UK
Construction Media. A massive 86% of employers say that apprenticeships are
helping them develop skills relevant to their organisation, and 78% believe
they help improve productivity.

Furthermore, Develop Training’s CEO, Chris Wood, believes that
apprenticeship programmes are indeed working, saying: “Working with some of the
UK’s largest utility firms, our success rates have been very high. We and our
customers have no doubt that, managed well, apprenticeships do work.”

He added: “New initiatives such as Trailblazer Apprenticeships
and the Apprenticeship Levy have raised awareness across the UK. Even so, and
despite huge skills shortages, many employers are still
only scratching the surface of what they could be doing to use apprenticeships
to attract new people to join the industry and improve the skills of existing
employees.”

In terms of what the future holds, apprenticeships could be crucial to successfully
fulfilling the demand in the construction industry.  With Downing Street committing itself to
creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020, we could see the
construction industry receiving a large chunk of those programmes. This will
provide an opportunity to deliver a new generation of highly skilled workers —
something that the industry is experiencing a lack of right now. In fact, the Director
of the National Apprentice Service, Sue Husband, predicts that 2018 will be
crucial for programmes. As more opportunities become available, now could be
the time to cut yourself a slice of the apprenticeship programme success — and
secure your future workforce now.

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